JONES JETS: PARTING THOUGHTS FROM THE DEPARTING PRESIDENT
After nearly four years as president, Robert J. Jones will be leaving at the University of Albany to assume the dual roles of Chancellor of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Vice President of the University of Illinois System.
With his final day as a Great Dane soon approaching, Sept. 23, Jones reflected on his time at UAlbany and his plans for the future.
What was the major deciding factor in choosing to leave UAlbany and go to Illinois?
I have thoroughly enjoyed my nearly four years at this university and my wife and I really love it here … Our conversations of late were whether I was going to work here for another three or five years, but this was an opportunity that was too compelling to say no to for a number of reasons. Reason one is it puts me back in the same time zone as my wife and my kids. Number two it puts me back in a system where a group of universities are called the Big 10 which I am greatly familiar with and back at a land grant institution, which has been part of my higher education experience all the way from a student … Notwithstanding the fact that I love it here and was excited about where this university is going, it was a compelling opportunity that ultimately I said yes to.
Do you have any desire to return to teaching after your chancellorship?
It’s hard to say, I don’t know what my mind will be seven or 10 years from now, I came up through the academic ranks and taught graduate level courses at the University of Minnesota for probably 25 years and I definitely enjoyed teaching, but I can’t say that is what I’ll do when my term as chancellor is over. I probably won’t retire completely but I will probably do something involved in international education or international research and scholarship, but I can’t say at this juncture that it would be teaching… It would take me too long to learn all that stuff I had forgotten.
You’ve been at Albany for almost four years, what has been the most rewarding or most memorable aspect of being here?
The most memorable aspect I would say is what we’ve been able to achieve in a relatively short period of time, we’ve embarked upon the largest academic expansion of this university in five years. We’ve started a new College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, we have been able to implement the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity that Gov. Cuomo gave us approval to start on the behalf of the entire state and we’ve started to have a conversation about expanding the health science degree programs that this university offers.
Do you have and advice for the students of Albany whether they are starting or finishing up or somewhere in between?
One thing I can tell you is the most enjoyable things I have experienced here have been my interactions with both undergraduate and graduate students. I have worked very hard to be a student focused president … I have benefited greatly from their advice, support and the relationship that I’ve had with them, where they know they can stop me on the podium at any time, and I expect them to stop me to say hello.
Even though you are leaving, what are your hopes and goals for the university as a whole?
That we continue down the path to excellence that we are on because it is quite exciting, it is transformative. My understanding is that the university has not generated this level of excitement about where it is and where it is going in quite some time and it is going to take collective action to get us there so student involvement is going to be critically important. So my advice is to continue to press towards excellence.
What are your goals for yourself?
My goal for myself is to keep waking up every day, the only goal I have form myself is to continue to enjoy what I do because I am very passionate about the work that I do as a university administrator and the day that its ceases to be fun is that day that I retire. I don’t do things I don’t enjoy.